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Leinster lead the way ahead of a crucial round of Heineken Cup matches

Andy McGeady looks at the movers and shakers ahead of Round 4 of the Heineken Cup pool stages

by Andy McGeady | December 13, 2013

Leinster – New And Very Short Favourites

At 5.59pm last Saturday evening before the whistle blew for kick off at Franklin’s Gardens Leinster were 6/1 to win the Heineken Cup. They’re now competition favourites at 10/3. Is this a fair line or an overreaction to a single, outstanding performance?

Scoring six tries away from home to a team like Northampton was a startling feat, particularly when there were two other tries that went a-begging. Aside from Saturday’s offensive fireworks perhaps more telling towards those short odds is the miserly 23 points that Leinster have conceded in their three games so far.

Leinster’s 10/3 for the title might still look a little short, especially considering Northampton had been forced to make a crucial tactical change to their back three just minutes before kickoff. Leinster targeted that change from the off, stone cold assassins in their execution. On another day perhaps Northampton have a proper full back doing sensible full back things and perhaps don’t concede a ridiculous 27 team turnovers including 9 dropped balls. Leinster have picked an unchanged team and are 11 point favourites over Northampton at Lansdowne Road in a match that will surely be tighter than last week’s laugher.

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Risers and Fallers

Behind Leinster at 10/3 and champions Toulon at 4/1, Connacht’s remarkable win in Toulouse during which they made 181 tackle attempts saw les Toulousains drop from 9/2 second-favourites down to fifth at 7/1.

Their Pool 3 rivals Saracens are now in to 8/1 from 14/1 after giving Zebre a thorough walloping (Sarries are -35 for the repeat at Allianz Park) and Munster moved in to 14/1 with their 36-8 win over the previous Pool 6 leaders Perpignan. Clermont, last season’s runners up, have moved in quietly from 11/2 to 9/2.

The biggest fallers from last week’s action are Northampton who, quite appropriately for a team wearing green, allowed a third Irish away side in consecutive seasons to head home with a win and bonus point. Before Leinster’s six try demolition at Franklin’s Gardens the Saints had been a respectable 18/1 to take the title. Now? A hefty and improbable 125/1. They’re joined on this figure by the disinterested Perpignan (formerly 33/1) and an appalling Racing Metro (formerly 20/1) who received thrashings of their own by Munster and previously-winless Harlequins respectively.

Harlequins – Can They Do It?

Harlequins went to Nantes needing to win to keep themselves in with a chance of a highly improbable quarter final place and Racing were very obliging. Harlequins are 1/4 favourites to win at the Stoop and if they do so they’ll be a giant stride closer to becoming the first team to make a quarter final despite losing their first two matches. Bravo those who took the 11/1 odds available last week on that happening but there’s a long way to go. With Lions players Mike Phillips and Jonathan Sexton both selected to start on Sunday, Racing at +9 is worth a look.

HARLEQUINS v RACING METRO BETTING: DESKTOP | MOBILE

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Yellow Cards

Discipline has been an issue in games involving Treviso. Of the 36 matches played so far in this year’s Heineken Cup the Italian side have been involved in the two most-penalised games. There were 30 penalties or free kicks in their round one contest at home to Montpellier with the same number again in their round two match against Leicester. For perspective, Cardiff have been involved in two of the least-penalised games with their home match against Glasgow last weekend having just 13 penalties or free kicks. Where penalties lead cards will surely follow and when looking at the odds of there being a yellow card in a game, for example Ulster’s visit to Treviso on Saturday afternoon, those stats are worth considering.

Upsetting Trends

On Friday night Ospreys face Castres with the French side favoured by a point. Castres have lost six of their previous seven away matches in Wales in the Heineken Cup, their lone win being an away trip to Bridgend in 2002. Ospreys have won their last ten home Heineken Cup games against French clubs. Castres are 5/6 to ruin the Ospreys’ French-vanquishing streak.

Cardiff beat Glasgow by nine points last weekend but go to Scotstoun as +12 underdogs. Easy money? This might seem odd on the surface but consider that Cardiff have lost their last five away Heineken Cup matches, conceding at least 34 points in each.

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That trend is why it’s a healthy 5/1 against Cardiff taking an away win on Friday. Your mileage may vary.

(Playing stats courtesy of Opta)

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